In drama, there’s a thing called the fourth wall. It’s the imaginary wall that separates the audience from the action they’re watching. You see it all the time on shows like The Office, where Jim Halpert mugs to the camera, as if to tell the viewers at home, “Gee, they’ve been shooting this documentary about a low-level paper company in Pennsylvania for an awful long time now, huh?”
Well, there’s another way the fourth wall can be broken: literally. Usually reserved for horror flicks and anything intended to scare people who enjoy such things like that out of their movies or TV shows, things that shouldn’t be able to crawl out of the cathode ray tube and into the “real world” are a time-honored, though not frequently used device. With that, here’s Topless Robot‘s tip-of-the-hat to this freaky convention. And if you don’t like it, I’ll crawl through your monitors and give you a heartfelt apology and drink all your soymilk. And I’m bringing Betty Boop with me, you hentai-watching weirdo.
6) Freddy Kruger, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Poor Jennifer. She was just minding her own business in the psychiatric hospital, watching Dick Cavett interviewing Zsa Zsa Gabor, when Freddy suddenly lunges to attack her. Was he one of her many scorned ex-husbands? We’ll never find out because the TV goes on the fritz, causing Jennifer to come closer and investigate. When she does, Freddy pokes his arms out of the set and his head above shouting, “Welcome to prime time, bitch!” before shoving her face into the screen, killing her. But you know the truly insane part of this whole sequence taking place in the nut house? Dick Cavett interviewing Zsa Zsa Gabor. Just seems a little far-fetched, no?
5) Zombies, The Video Dead
Ah, the ’80s cheese. It’s only gotten better with age, and this direct-to-video schlock fest is a lovable, if also forgettable, testament to how great awful movies used to be. A writer is toiling away in his house, frustratedly throwing balled-up scraps of paper (that’s how you know he’s a writer) when suddenly a TV is delivered to his house even though he didn’t order one. He accepts it anyway, flips it on, and the only thing it shows is a movie called Zombie Blood Nightmare. Anyway, yes. Then zombies start to crawl out of the TV. In some respects it’s a satire on how toxic, brainless, and harmful the distractions are that creative people dive into. In other respects it’s just another dumb zombie movie.
4) A Giant Mouth, Videodrome
Videodrome is plenty demented and makes tons of salient points about cable TV much in the way The Matrix did the same with the Internet. All you need to know if you haven’t seen Videodrome is that James Woods plays the CEO of a small cable company who stumbles upon a channel broadcasting only soft-core porn and extreme violence. It eventually leads to a war on reality being led by the televised world, and things start to get truly crazy with the scene featured here: Deborah Harry pulls off her executioner’s mask and, through the TV, orgasmically moans for Woods to come to her. They make out through the TV screen, which is still somehow more disturbing than jerking off to the Internet.
3) A Poltergeist, Poltergeist
In a scene that gave the horror genre one of its quintessential quotable lines of dialog, little Carol Anne is transfixed on the family boob tube when it inexplicably starts blasting static. Suddenly, the set shuts off, a smoky beam of light escapes, apparently some sort of apparition? It wanders over to the wall and then creates a vicious earthquake throughout the house. Just before that, though, the little girl says, knowingly: “They’re here.” Show of hands if you thought she meant the Little Caesar’s guy out front with a pipin’ Hot-N-Ready meat-lover’s pie.
2) A Homicidal Demon, The Ring/Ringu
Hard to believe that the nauseatingly terrifying Japanese movie about the demon child manipulating video images to turn the TV into a portal to wreak havoc on those who cast her into the well is already more than a decade old. It and its American remake have very similar elements, but one constant is the aforementioned plot device. Regardless of which you think is scarier – although the Japanese one definitely is – the effect is the same: Demon crawls out of TV, and people gonna die.
1) A Clown Arm, Are You Afraid of the Dark?
As if people really needed another reason to be afraid of clowns, this SNICK mainstay yielded an episode that pushed some little ones over the edge. The Midnight Society really outdid themselves in their telling of “The Tale of the Crimson Clown,” the titular clown terrorizes Sam, a bratty kid who buys a video game with money that was supposed to have been spent buying his mother a birthday present. Anyway, as you would naturally assume, the clown’s arm reaches through the TV to scare Sam, all while maniacally chuckling from behind the screen, “Hello, Sam! Stay tuned, you’re next… you rotten kid.” Wow, I think that just put applesauce in my pants. But wait, I didn’t eat any applesauce!